Years ago, as a small business owner, I recognized that it wasn’t always the paycheck that motivated my employees. In fact, there were a number of competitors that could have paid them more than I could, so I had to find other ways to create an environment they didn’t want to leave.
I’m convinced that most people want to feel like they are contributing to something important and that their efforts provide value to the mission and objectives of where they work. At least that was what I saw in my employees. Since my time at the helm of a small business, I’ve come to appreciate that many employees feel like their boss doesn’t really understand what they do or acknowledge their contributions—which makes it difficult for them to give their best work. I believe as an employee it’s my responsibility to offer my best work to my employer. As an employer, it’s my job to give my people a reason to come back and do it again tomorrow. And, it’s not always the paycheck that does it.
Finding the right way to do it can be a powerful tool to keep people engaged and motivated.
Recognition and Reward
I found that recognition tied to real accomplishment meant a lot to my team and that the value of a pair of movie tickets or a gift card to a favorite restaurant couldn’t be understated. Fortunately, doing it doesn’t need to be a financial burden for even the smallest small business. In fact, there are creative ways to provide benefits and perks to your employees that might not even cost you anything.
If you’re like many small business owners you regularly use business credit cards to purchase supplies, pay for travel, or pay for a myriad of other business needs. Many business cards offer points, that in turn, can help you reward your employees for their good work.
6 Ways to Reward Employees with Credit Card Points
There are dozens of credit cards that offer cashback rewards, travel points, or dining credits you can use to purchase airline tickets, restaurant credits, or any number of other purchases. Start looking at the available pool of collected points or cash back, determine a budget based upon your regular credit card usage and the points collected, and establish a schedule for how regularly you want to use those points to recognize and reward your top performers.
Here are a few suggestions:
- A trip to an exotic location for two: This can be an unexpected and welcome reward for an employee and won’t cost you much if you have a travel reward card. If you schedule the trip to include a weekend, it won’t even impact a full week of work. If your travel card offers points for air travel, hotel, rental car, and dining, you can leverage your business travel into a wonderful employee rewards program.
- Dinner out on the town for two: Many times rewarding an employee with a dinner for two is a great way to recognize someone who put forth extra effort to meet a deadline or completed a project under budget. The cost of a nice dinner isn’t really that expensive, but using your credit card rewards makes it zero cost.
- Upgrade an employee to first-class: If your employees occasionally travel for business, there’s nothing better than a surprise upgrade to first class. For the cost of a few travel points, you can make an appreciated employee feel valued and appreciated in a way they will likely remember for a long time.
- A night away in a nice hotel: Offering an employee a night away in a nice hotel can be an easy and inexpensive way to help an overachiever in the office decompress and recharge their batteries.
- Buy something fun for the office: Although there are a lot of great ways to reward your employees with travel benefits, that isn’t the only way to use your credit card reward points. You might be surprised just how nice a comfortable new desk chair, a cappuccino machine, or a pebbled ice maker can be. The sky’s the limit on what you can do with rewards or cashback to enhance the place where your employees work.
- Don’t forget gift cards: Gift cards can be a great way to tell an employee you appreciate what they’re doing—and if you use credit card points or cash back, it doesn’t cost you anything.
Some Advice on Recognition and Rewards
Years ago I had an employer who would walk through the office and insincerely say, “You guys are the best. You do a great job.”
He went through the motions, but his employees could read his insincerity like a book. Because of that, it did the opposite of motivating and engaging his employees—and as soon as he was out of earshot, they made their displeasure clear.
How you recognize and reward your employees is every bit as important as whether or not you do it all. In fact, doing it the wrong way can actually hurt more than help. Here are X things to consider when recognizing and rewarding employees:
- Surprise and delight: In other words, don’t always wait until the end of the month or the end of the quarter to reward your best employees. Reward superior performance when it happens, even if it’s on a Wednesday the first week of the month.
- Make it specific: “You did a great job on the project,” isn’t as impactful as, “I appreciate the way you addressed XYZ challenge on the project. It showed you had really put the customer first, and that’s important to us.” Generic platitudes generally fall flat.
- Don’t give everyone a trophy: In other words, reward your top performers and recognize those that go above and beyond what’s expected of them. If everyone gets a reward, regardless of their contribution, it won’t mean very much.
Business credit cards that offer cashback rewards, travel rewards, or 0% interest can be a smart way to finance employee rewards. There are a lot of options for businesses that regularly use credit cards in their daily business and likely some you don’t even know about.
Recognizing and rewarding your employees can be a great way to boost morale and keep everyone motivated. Doing it with credit card reward points can be a powerful and inexpensive way to do it.
Ty has been writing about small business and the business finance topics that impact a business’ bottom line for almost 20 years. With over 35 years in the trenches as a Main Street business evangelist, author, and marketing veteran, he makes the maze of small business finance accessible by weaving personal experiences and other anecdotes into a regular discussion of some of the biggest challenges facing small business owners today.